I never knew how blind I truly was until I saw the Tories were looking at creating a formal Native education system through a First Nations Education Act. I had always assumed one was already in place as the ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development funded First Nations schools across the country. The Act which could be considered by Parliament this year has high hopes of “breaking the cycle of failure on reserve schools.” It is touted as one of the most important and unexpected priorities for the Harper government.

Well bless my soul and let me see the light shine on a brighter future. Apparently this important consideration was overlooked by the Senate’s Committee on Aboriginal Peoples when some report recommended legislation that would create a Native education system.

We are told key decision-makers in Harper’s administration are quite excited and favour the idea.

Many promoters claim there is no education system for Native communities. I thought the blame was with the ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, but once again I was wrong. It turns out these are just schools run by band councils. Of course we should not even think of comparing this to such things as the English School Board of Montreal or other such organizations. After all there is a difference between those who attended residential school and those who attended normal schools. Some know how to run a school and others don’t.

It has nothing to do with the fact First Nations schools are underfunded in comparison to non-Native schools. It has nothing to do with the fact teachers are often paid less than their southern counterparts. It has nothing to do with the conditions of substandard buildings with mould and other problems. It has nothing to do with a lack of libraries of such high-tech items like a computer lab.

It also has nothing to do with the fact that on a regular basis promises of renovations, upgrades or a new school have seen monies disappear to fund other projects. If the students have waited this long then surely another year won’t matter.

Still the bells and whistles accompanying this proposed Act (would it still be under Aboriginal Affairs?) might do some good. The Senate’s report talks about legislation that wouldn’t force First Nations to be a part of the Act unless they wanted to be. First Nations’ school boards would be a step towards erasing the stigma of enforced attendance in residential schools.

Harper has indicated he is willing to fund a First Nations education system providing it is effective and accountable. One can easily agree with effectiveness but First Nations would need to have details on the accountability. Given the high degree of accountability First Nations face and the penalties of third-party management they would want to know more details.

If you think this is something new then you should realize that bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucracy hates more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys looking inept? So will we see something new that works or will the new boss be the same as the old boss?